Sylvi Listhaug, a minister appointed by the anti-immigrant Progress Party, caused outrage on Monday when she made an incendiary post on the eve of an national integration conference.
“I think those who come to Norway need to adapt to our society. Here we eat pork, drink alcohol and show our face. You must abide by the values, laws and regulations that are in Norway when you come here,” she wrote in a post that was ‘liked’ by 20,000 people.
Omar Gilani Syed, a criminologist who has worked with integrating refugees, asked whether Listhaug could continue to be responsible for integration in the country while making such statements.
“If she does not understand the complexity and does not have the expertise to deal with these social issues in a good way, it's time to ask: should Listhaug reconsider her position?” he wrote in the Aftenposten newspaper.
He accused Listhaug of putting electoral advantage above the needs of her nation.
“Is this yet another populist statement with the aim to gathering as many as possible votes?” he asked. “For myself, I become frightened and uneasy at the thought of an integration minister who sweeps the really big problems under the carpet and reduces the whole integration debate to dealing with pork and alcohol.”
Zaineb Al-Samarai, an politician in Oslo for Norway’s Labour Party, accused Listhaug of deliberately seeking to divide Muslim immigrants from the rest of Norwegian society.
“If you are to be Integration Minister, you must begin to integrate,” she wrote in an article in Dagbladet. “Do not frighten and separate people.”
“I do not believe that Norwegian culture is so weak that it’s going to lay down and die if someone chooses to wear a hijab as their national costume,” she continued. “Norwegian culture is not as weak or in danger as you believe. And Norwegian culture is about a lot more than pork and headgear.”
Norway’s government, a coalition between the centre-right Conservative Party and the populist anti-immigrant Progress Party, has been coming down hard on Norwegian Muslims over the last week.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in an interview connected with Tuesday’s conference that she personally would not employ someone wearing the Islamic Niqab face veil.
“No, you probably wouldn’t get a job from me or from many others if you were wearing a niqab on you,” Solberg told NRK.
Meanwhile, Siv Jensen, who leads the Progress Party and serves as Finance Minister, on Wednesday accused Muslim woman of wearing the Niqab simply to provoke a reaction.
“I believe those who choose to wear it desire to provoke,” she said. “I would find it smarter if they instead used their time and energy to adapt themselves to Norwegian society.”
“I believe we need to be able to look people in the face when we work together.”